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List Price: $7.99


On Sale: November 13, 2007
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-375-89059-8
Published by : Delacorte Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books

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On Sale: March 10, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-7393-7977-6
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Tags for this book (powered by Library Thing)
mexico (33) immigration (19) guatemala (16) family (12) fiction (12)
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“A captivating read.”—School Library Journal, Starred

One night Sophie and her parents are called to a hospital where Pedro, a six-year-old Mexican boy, is recovering from dehydration. Crossing the border into Arizona with a group of Mexicans and a coyote, or guide, Pedro and his parents faced such harsh conditions that the boy is the only survivor. Pedro comes to live with Sophie, her parents, and Sophie's Aunt Dika, a refugee of the war in Bosnia. Sophie loves Pedro—her Principito, or Little Prince. But after a year, Pedro’s surviving family in Mexico makes contact, and Sophie, Dika, Dika’s new boyfriend, and his son must travel with Pedro to his hometown so that he can make a heartwrenching decision.

An IRA Award Winner
An Américas Award Honor Book
An ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults
A Colorado Book Award Winner
A Cybil Award Finalist
School Library Journal Best Book
A Richie’s Pick


One night in June, at midnight, I was in bed reading The Little Prince, a book I’d already read once and underlined for world lit class. I was lost in the story, right there with the pilot alone in the sand dunes when the little boy appears out of nowhere.

Right then, the phone rang. I walked into the kitchen in my nightgown, my bare feet slapping the clay tile, my mind still in the sand dunes of another planet.

I picked up the phone. “Hello?”

“Officer Douglas here, Border Patrol. I need to speak with Juan Gutiérrez.”

My stomach tightened. I knocked on Mom and Juan’s door. “Juan. Border Patrol’s on the phone.”

During the phone call, Juan listened and nodded gravely. “Yes, yes, I see. Seven dead?” His voice cracked. “I have no idea how my business card got in this kid’s pocket.”

I sat at the kitchen table, tracing the deep, worn scratches in the wood, trying not to stare at the tears leaking out of Juan’s eyes.

Mom disappeared into the bedroom, and a few minutes later, calmly reemerged, her keys jangling. She’d already changed into a gauzy dress and turquoise necklace. She carried herself in a European-model way, her neck long, never slouching, not even in the middle of the night un- der the weight of bad news. Only two delicate furrows on her forehead betrayed her worry. That, and her British accent grew a bit more pronounced, as it did whenever she got emotional.

Just as Juan was hanging up the phone, Great-aunt Dika thudded into the kitchen, her eyes wide and alarmed. “What is it?” she cried. “What is it?” For Dika, being woken in the middle of the night meant bombings and attacks. She came from Bosnia and she’d materialized in our lives six months earlier. Dee-ka is how she said her name. Trying to understand Dika was like deciphering a code: vs were really ws, ds were ths, rolling rrrs were rs. Her words pierced the air, loud and shrill, as if she were perpetually in the middle of a big, rowdy party. Be patient with her, Sophie, Mom kept telling me, the woman barely survived a war. But I suspected she was a naturally hyper person.

Juan rubbed his face. The muscles in his arms flexed, moving the snake tattoos. “Seven Mexicans died crossing the desert.” He spoke in Spanish, as he always did when he felt deeply about something. “One boy survived. They found my business card in his pocket.”

On the way to the hospital in the puttering Volkswagen Bus, Mom clutched the wheel and came up with possible scenarios. Juan, meanwhile, sat hunched in the passenger seat, his head in his hands.

He’d come from Mexico in the eighties, illegally, across the desert. He got residency after he married my mom nine years ago. Since then, when people crossed the desert to Tucson, Juan sometimes put them up for a night. He gave them food and water and always refused payment. His motives were good, but what he did was against the law. Mom finally put her foot down about it. Only in absolute emergencies, she said, could these people stay at our place.

Mom sped down First Avenue, her eyes flicking nervously from the rearview to the side-view mirror. I knew she was wondering if we’d get in trouble, if the Border Patrol had discovered we’d been helping immigrants. “You know, Juan,” she said in Spanish, “maybe you did business with someone who knew this family. Who knows, maybe the card was passed around a lot. The boy could’ve found it on the street.”

Dika, meanwhile, muttered in the background. “This poor boy. Poor, poor boy.” She spoke her own strange version of English. Her accent moved from Slavic to Spanish to German. She was an onion, layers of language peeling off here and there, exposing bits of her sixty years of life, not much, just enough to make you wonder.

The hospital was a surreal place at one in the morning, a maze of fluorescent corridors. A man in a wrinkled orange shirt and braces met us outside the boy’s room. He shook hands with each of us, and said he was with CPS, Child Protective Services.

“The kid’s a foundling,” the man said. “That’s what the law calls them. A young child, found alone.” He mumbled, trying to hide his braces. “We’re pretty sure his parents died crossing the desert. He looks at least five years old, but he won’t talk. When the sheriff asked him about his parents, he pointed out their bodies. Problem is, we can’t ID the bodies and we don’t know the kid’s name.”

“He’s probably in shock,” Mom said. “His parents dead. Three days in a desert.”

“Three days in desert!” Dika cried. “That boy is hungry now!” She barreled down the bright hallway toward the vending machines.

The CPS man swung open the door and we entered the room. There was a tiny life on the bed, lost in a hospital gown spotted with hippos and giraffes. His eyes were open but lifeless. A tube was taped to the back of his hand.

Foundling. What a strange word. It made me think of the fairy tales that Juan used to tell me—didn’t they start with foundlings in the wilderness who turned out to be magical?

“Hola, amigo,” Juan whispered.

Mom touched the boy’s thin wrist. “¿Cómo estás, mi amor?”

No answer.

“Sure you don’t know this child?” the CPS man asked.

Juan shook his head.

The man sighed. “I was hoping you might.” He explained what would happen to the boy. If no relatives claimed him, he would become an American citizen, under the care of CPS.

I looked at the boy. A dark-skinned Little Prince, a lonely apparition from the desert. Around his neck hung a tangle of strings attached to square bits of leather imprinted with saints. On his cheek, a pinkish spot of skin, the color of a conch shell’s spiral. Maybe a wound healing, maybe a birthmark.

“Then what would happen to the little guy?” Juan asked.

“Foster care, adoption.”

Dika appeared at the doorway with a pack of Fig Newtons. “We take him!” She ripped open the plastic with her yellowed teeth, shoved a cookie in her mouth, and passed the package around the room. The man took one politely.

“We take him, Sophie. Yes?” Dika looked at me. She was always trying to make me an accomplice in her plans.

I shrugged and glanced at Mom and Juan. They were ignoring her and talking in low voices. I thought about it, the possibility of taking him. A little brother might be cute. But this boy on the hospital bed wasn’t exactly cute. To tell the truth, he scared me. He was living proof of one of my worst fears: Your parents really could die and leave you alone in the world. For the first seven years of my life, it was just Mom and me. No father, no grandparents, no aunts or uncles. Early on, I figured out that if anything happened to Mom, I would be alone on this planet. Then, when Juan came along, you’d think I’d have felt safer, but my fears of a parent dying were just multiplied by two.

Dika sat her wide hips on the bed, half-smushing the boy, and pulled out a cookie. “Aquí, for you, mi amor.” You wouldn’t expect a Bosnian refugee to speak nearly perfect Spanish, but Dika boasted that she spoke a dozen languages.

She half-reclined on the hospital bed and smiled proudly, watching him munch on the Fig Newton.

“That’s the first he’s eaten,” the CPS man said.

Dika handed the boy another Fig Newton. “Of course we take him,” she said again.

From the Hardcover edition.
Laura Resau

About Laura Resau

Laura Resau - Red Glass
Years ago, while I was teaching English in Mexico and backpacking around Latin America on vacations, I thought, 'Hey, wouldn't it be cool if I spent my whole life traveling around from one country to another?'  I loved the idea of always immersing myself in a new culture, learning a new language, having new adventures.  

Alas, I didn't end up doing it.  The homebody in me won out.  I settled down in Colorado and got married and bought a house and formed a close community of friends here.  I still travel as often as I can, but part of me dreams of a completely nomadic existence…

The beauty of writing books (and reading them for that matter)  is that you can lead lots of thrilling, adventure-packed lives instead of just this one.  I started imagining a series about a teen girl named Zeeta, who travels the world with her flighty, English-teaching mom.  Each book would be set in a different country—my way of living a whimsical travelers' life through my characters.

I chose countries that I've felt a special connection with (all places where I wouldn't mind going back to for a "research trip" or two, of course.)  The Indigo Notebook is set in Ecuador, where I'd spent time in indigenous (Indian) villages in the Andes—a region with a breath-taking landscape and fascinating culture.  As with my first two books (What the Moon Saw and Red Glass), many of the people I met and the stories they shared inspired parts of this novel. 

In Ecuador, a friend told me that one day, a teenage boy had come to his village looking for his birth family.  All the stranger knew was that he'd been adopted from this village as a baby.  It turned out that he was my friend's biological half-brother, and ended up being embraced by family.  I loved this story for many reasons.

During the year I was writing The Indigo Notebook, I was also in the process of adopting a baby from Guatemala, and imagining how he might feel about his adoption when he grew older.  (Sidenote: He's a wild-haired, adorable toddler now and I love him with every particle of my being!)  So naturally, one of the plots in The Indigo Notebook involves a boy's search for a birth family.  As Zeeta helps Wendell look for his biological parents, they grow closer, but find themselves facing obstacles and danger and mystery along the way. 

Ultimately, The Indigo Notebook is about what happens when your biggest wish is about to come true… and then you wonder if it's what you truly want after all.  There might be something better…

With a background in cultural anthropology and ESL-teaching, Laura Resau has lived and traveled extensively in Latin America - experiences which inspired her books for young people. Her latest children's novel, Star in the Forest, was praised as "a child's migration story with simple immediacy... an unforgettable narrative" (Booklist, starred.) Her previous young adult novels - The Indigo Notebook, Red Glass, and What the Moon Saw - have garnered many starred reviews and awards, including the IRA YA Fiction Award, the Americas Award, and a spot on Oprah's Kids' Book List. Acclaimed for its sensitive treatment of immigration issues, Resau's writing has been called "vibrant, large-hearted" (Publishers' Weekly, starred for Red Glass) and "powerful, magical" (Booklist, starred for What the Moon Saw). Resau lives with her husband and toddler in Colorado. She donates a portion of her royalties to indigenous rights organizations in Latin America.
Praise | Awards


Starred Review, Booklist, September 15, 2007:
"The vivid characters, the fine imagery, and the satisfying story arc make this a rewarding novel."
—Carolyn Phelan

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, October 1, 2007:
"The prose captivates from the first chapter ... a vibrant, large-hearted story."

From the Hardcover edition.


WINNER 2008 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
WINNER 2007 School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
WINNER 2008 Texas TAYSHAS High School Reading List
WINNER 2007 YOYA Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers
WINNER 2008 Colorado Book Award
WINNER 2008 Américas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature
NOMINEE Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices
WINNER IRA Young Adult Choices
NOMINEE Kentucky Bluegrass Award
NOMINEE Maine Student Book Award
NOMINEE Nebraska Golden Sower Award
NOMINEE Missouri Mark Twain Award
Teachers Guide

Teacher's Guide


Recommended for Grades 5 and up

The journey to return a young orphaned boy to his
village in Mexico forces 16-year-old Sophie far out
of her comfort zone. She suddenly finds herself
alone in a foreign land, facing real danger, and
falling in love for the first time.

When Sophie’s mother and stepfather assume the role of foster parents to Pablo, an orphan from Mexico, Sophie’s life takes a fresh turn. An only child and self-proclaimed loner, Sophie latches on to Pablo instantly as part of her family. When Pablo opens up and tells them about his village, Sophie’s Aunt Dika and her friend, Mr. Lorenzo, offer to take Pablo back to his grandmother in Mexico. Soon, the unlikely group—Sophie, Pablo, Dika, Mr. Lorenzo, and his son, Angel—are off on a one-of-a-kind road trip. But after Mr Lorenzo and Angel make a side trip to Guatemala and don’t return as planned, Sophie sets out on her own to retrieve them. Along the way she finds her inherent strength, casting her old fears by the wayside.

Thematic Connections

Adopted & Orphaned Children
Courage & Honor
Contemporary Issues & Social Problems
Hispanic Interest


Laura Resau grew up in and around Baltimore, Maryland. She spent two years as an anthropologist and English teacher in the Mixtec region of Oxaca, Mexico. Her first novel, What the Moon Saw, received starred reviews from School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and Booklist. She currently lives in Colorado with her husband and their dog, where she teaches cultural anthropology and English as a second language. Visit www.lauraresau.com for more information.


Pre- Reading Activity

The 21st century could be considered a dangerous time for teenagers, who may encounter school violence, Internet predators, STDs, or drugs. Some teenagers are fearful, worried, and even depressed to the point of being unable to function on a daily basis; others believe they are invincible, that nothing bad can happen to them. Discuss the role fear and worry play in students’ lives and how they can live a balanced life without fear and worry, but with healthy caution. Have each student select a present day danger and write about how they can address their fear and the danger itself.


Questions for Group Discussion

• Willing to risk his freedom and the safety of his family, Sophie’s stepfather, Juan, helps the Mexicans who cross the border into the United States. What role do Sophie and her mother play in assisting the Mexicans crossing the border? What effect does this have on Sophie? How does Juan’s assistance help the Mexicans?

• Sophie sees herself as a loner, “a free-floating, one-celled amoeba.” (p. 9) How does Sophie’s image of herself change as she travels to Mexico and meets new people? What experiences there allow her to become part of an organism?

• Sophie whispers to Pablo in English, “Maybe we are two amoebas together.” (p. 12) What does she mean by this? How does Sophie's need to help Pablo end up helping them both?

• Sophie’s first memory of Mexican immigrants coming to her home in the middle of the night is a man eating a raw egg and throwing the empty shell on the ground. She kept the shell to remind her of what mattered most in life. At that time in her life, what mattered most to Sophie? How do her priorities change after her trip to Mexico?

• How do the immigration laws affect Pablo, Mr. Lorenzo, and Dika? How are Sophie and her family, United States citizens, affected by the laws?

• When Dika and Mr. Lorenzo begin talking about taking Pablo home to his village, Sophie’s fear and worry immobilize her. Of what is she so afraid? On what are her fears based? Does she have legitimate reasons to be afraid? Why or why not?

• On her trip to Guatemala to find Angel and Mr. Lorenzo, several people help Sophie. How does the kindness of strangers allow her to reach her destination? What does she learn about trust from the people who help her?

• The relationship between Dika and Mr. Lorenzo changes during the course of their trip to Mexico. How does the change in their relationship help each of them overcome a part of their past? How will releasing their past enable them to have a more fulfilling future?

• When Sophie arrives at the hospital and sees Angel and Mr. Lorenzo, she hopes they notice “that a layer of heavy, thick stuff that used to separate her from the world was disappearing.” (p. 218) What was the “stuff”? How does she let go of her angst?

• Despite almost being killed, Angel is determined to recover his mother’s jewels before he returns to Tucson. Why are the jewels so important to Angel? How does Sophie help Angel achieve his goal?

• Sophie learns that “it is in the harshest places where you appreciate beauty the most.” (p. 274) How could each of the characters in Red Glass relate to this lesson?

Writing Activities

Pablo enjoys listening to Sophie read poetry even though he doesn’t understand the poems. Ask students to read poetry by E. E. Cummings, Pablo Neruda, or other poets and select one that Sophie could have read to Pablo. Have students select a format (letter, journal, or poem) and write in Sophie or Pablo’s voice revealing why the words of the poem relate to their lives or situations. Post poems and responses in the room for all students to enjoy.

Changed by her experiences in Mexico, Sophie learns many lessons she can apply to her own life. Ask students to make a time line charting Sophie’s experiences and, adjacent to each experience, stating the lesson she learned and how it motivates her to change. Students should be creative with their time lines, using drawings, computer graphics, or pictures to illustrate the time line. Display the time lines in the classroom.


Post- Reading Activity

The recent challenges to United States immigration laws have produced heated discussion in political rings as well as classrooms, with students walking out of school in protest of proposed changes. Ask students to research the current conflict over the Bush administration’s proposed changes in the laws that affect immigrants to the United States. Divide the class into three large groups. One group will report on the facts of the law and the proposed changes, another group will argue in support of the changes, and the final group will argue against the changes.


Internet Resources

Illegal Immigration Explained
An explanation of illegal immigration

Third World Traveler
History of human rights in Mexico

Information about anxiety disorders in teens

Catholic Online
Article about young children crossing the border


Related Titles By Theme

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A Single Shard
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Historical Fiction: 20th Century • Asian Interest • Adopted
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